Tuesday, March 03, 2009

An International Weekend

It started out on Friday, with a dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant, on Tate Street. Every time I need a quick pick-me-up after a long week at work, or just one miserable day even, I head to Sushi Republic with a good book or a trashy magazine in my hand. I order a couple of "complicated rolls", I call them, a beer, and some soup, and I just let my body melt, with the flavors, and the disco beats, and the unique experience of watching the sushi chefs.

I am fascinated with sushi chefs. Not just because I think they're truly artists, painting a masterpiece of flavors, and of visual beauty on empty plates, but I love watching their bodies move. I am not sure why I go to a sushi restaurant to relax, unwind, and take it slow, when the very thing that relaxes me is nothing but constant, unbounded energy and motion. The chefs move with the speed of a Tokyo street crowd at rush hour. I am sure you watched the arial views of Tokyo and you saw all the people moving in millions directions, it seems, at enormous speeds. The sushi chefs do the same thing, in my eyes. There is constant moving. Even when they stand, their muscles, it seems, are moving, and always ready for the next nervous impulse to send them off into a new direction ... And in ten minutes or less you get a masterpiece, and you feel such guilt devouring it.

Dinner was a success, as always. After reading "The Story of Sushi" , I am trying to order more "Japanese", authentic sushi, with no crunchies, and no mayo or aioli or even eel sauce or any kind of "sauce" - I have learned that those are actually made for the American market. The traditional sushi is rice, seaweed and fish. Maybe wasabi, not always, and ginger on the side. It'a hard to get the Japanese sushi and not feel like you're wasting your money: it seems so un-interesting... But I did get a red snapper roll, which was not red at all. Very white, indeed.

Then, Saturday, I had to go visit the new IKEA, in Charlotte. I have wanted to go for years, as my sister, who lives in Montreal, furnished her home twice from that store, and I love everything she has. I knew I was going to love it, but I didn't realize how many memories it will bring back. The furniture, and the decorations are so ... European. I love their use of every inch of space, and it made me miss home. We don't have huge houses in Europe. We don't even have closets at all, in Romania, at least. So, we need furniture to address storage issues, as well as be tasteful. I love the way they marry the practical with the beautiful. I love the clean lines, and how there is a touch of "different" and "interesting" into everything, from a curtain which makes a statement to a drawer knob for the kitchen! Of course, I love the prices!!My friends were saying that the couches and armchairs were too small. But I loved that! I absolutely hate sectionals! And the recliners !! - oh, me: such grotesque overspending of materials! I know, I am not a good American, but I love the space to flow, and the air to flow in the space, not trip at every inch because of the oversized furniture!

Oh, I loved Ikea! I remembered my beds, from back home, which all had storage underneath, for the bedding, made me miss mom's home, where all the kitchen cabinets have glass on the doors, to make them look bigger, and all the doors have glass in them, too, for the same reason: to make the rooms and hallways feel bigger and to let the light flow; it reminded me of my aunt's bedroom, with wall to wall wardrobes.

It made me, once again, feel guilty for all the space I bought into when I bought my town home. Way too much for me! And it reminded me: you don't need square footage to have everything you need and then some. You need a careful planning of the space you have, and you have enough.

I loved the Sweedish meatballs and the gravy, as well - both a first for me. I have never had gravy like that: it was like a foam, creamy and delicious, not greasy and guiltful like the American one. The smell of smoked salmon in the cafeteria made me almost pass out. I love smoked salmon! I did buy some herring, but I have not broken into that one just yet. That's a rare treat, for one day when I want to travel back to Sweden once more and I won't be able to drive to Charlotte.

Sunday was supposed to be yoga day, and I was happy for the opportunity to travel to India, upon that occasion. But the weather had its own mind, and the class was canceled. That didn't prevent me from moving right along in my reading Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras" for most of the Sunday, anyway, and thus I emerged myself in the culture and philosophy of letting go, and being happy in the now. The ultimate relaxation treatment indeed for the end of a taxing week.

Sunday morning, I cooked, mostly Romanian (and Greek), with lots of garlic, potatoes, meat, veggies and garbanza beans... So, another trip to Europe it was. All while listening to a great new find (thanks, J.!), a band called Luminescent Orchestrii . I am not sure what kind of music to tell you that they do ... but it's Romanian, as much as it's Gypsy, and Bulgarian, and Serbian, at the same time. I'd call it Balkan, but I always hate when people consider Romania a "Balkan country". You can listen for yourself and make up your own mind. It made me miss parties with lots of dancing and drinking back home, when everyone's happy, dancing, and knows how to dance, or at least ... how to have fun.

I am so grateful for all these mini-trips this weekend. I will feed myself from the flavors, sounds, images of these distant places, recreated close to home, for another couple of weeks or months to come. And this way, the pain of not actually travelling, will be numbed once again.

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